A muddy field somewhere near the town of Charleville is an unlikely link with the Rugby World Cup in France.
But it was there, on the Cork-Limerick border, that a famous tactical kick, The Garryowen, is believed to have got its name during the height of the Irish Civil War more than 100 years ago.
The high ball and follow-up, designed to put the opposing team under pressure, was perfected in earlier years at the Market Fields in Limerick by Garryowen Rugby Club, founded in 1884.
But seemingly, it didn’t have a name until a game was played in Charleville between Provisional Government soldiers on October 11, 1922. The 39th Infantry Battalion was billeted in the town’s sandbagged Parochial Hall, a former Catholic Church.
It was a crucial period in the bitter conflict between the National Army and the IRA. There were shootings, ambushes, searches, and arrests, with deaths and injuries on both sides.
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Twenty-three Republican prisoners escaped from the Bridewell at Kanturk Courthouse by overpowering the guards and seizing their rifles and ammunition. The Freeman’s Journal reported that the National Army scoured the countryside in follow-up searches for the escaped prisoners, but none appeared to have been recaptured.
Comdt General Denis Galvin, O/C of its 1st Southern Division based in Kanturk, issued a proclamation prohibiting the use of motor cars, motorcycles, and even push bicycles in North Cork without a permit.
After two National Army soldiers were wounded by rifle fire late one night outside their Charleville billet, Colonel Dave Reynolds, the officer in charge, took steps to steady the nerves of his troops.
He arranged a rugby match between teams drawn from the ranks. That proved to be a wise decision because the battalion included 77 men from Limerick, where rugby was and is an infectious passion.
Colonel Reynolds refereed the game. Corporal Joe ‘Piper’ Cullinane captained a ‘Shannon Selection’ and Corporal Denis ‘Lamb’ Hickey led the opposing ‘Young M
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